Preaching on Stewardship- June 3, 2018

Happy Monday! Every Monday I share a few tidbits, nuggets, or ideas for incorporating some stewardship themes in your preaching. This week’s stewardship nuggets based on the appointed readings by the Revised Common Lectionary and Narrative Lectionary are as follows:

Sunday June 3, 2018: Revised Common Lectionary- The Second Sunday after Pentecost (Time after Pentecost- Lectionary 9)
First Lesson: Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Psalm 81:1-10
Second Lesson: 2 Corinthians 4:5-12
Gospel of Mark 2:23-3:6

As we turn the calendar to June, we enter the long green time after Pentecost. A time of growth and discipleship. In the northern hemisphere, a time of travel perhaps, summer, some relaxation, time for recharging, and in places like Nebraska, a time of caring for, praying, and watching as the crops hopefully grow.

I’m struck by this week’s readings though, about the sense of doing what is needed to care for another and meet their needs, regardless of what human created barrier or understanding might get in the way. So in this sense, I think in terms of stewardship, I might ponder our stewardship of care, love, service, and justice.

This seems to me to be at the heart of the gospel stories from Mark this week. Jesus proclaims, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28, NRSV). It would seem that the people had grown too hard around the law of the commandments and the sabbath, and forgotten the point of the law and commandments– the point and hope that life might go well for God’s people, and that God’s people and God might be and grow into deeper relationship with one another.

Perhaps we too have fallen into this in our world today? Perhaps we cling too heavily to the law, and allow it to shelter us from helping our neighbor in need, or as an excuse to not act for justice for all?

Jesus continues in today’s story, “‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. He looked around them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him” (Mark 3:4-6, NRSV).

Would we steward ourselves to help another, even if it might be seen as negative by others around us? Would we step up and steward all that we are as God has entrusted us to be, to help another even when inconvenient for us, and perhaps “not appropriate”? 

In these posts I don’t often dive too deeply into societal issues, but I am going to make an exception this week. I can’t stomach it anymore. The United States is in the midst of a moral and ethical crisis of our own making. We are separating parents and children at the border of our country, and in the process breaking up families, and even misplacing or losing track of some of the children. This is wrong on so many levels. It is utterly against the gospel, and in all honesty, those defending this evil process and practice, aren’t so different I believe from those who in this week’s gospel story would have scoffed at Jesus healing another in need on the sabbath.

How do we steward justice for these families? How do we steward care for them, even when the powers that be might have us try and ‘other’ one another, and see each other not as human beings and all equal Children of God, all created in the image of God?

I know I am on my soap box this week. But in terms of neighbor love, and stewardship, we must speak out against this. Why? Because that is our calling as disciples, and stewards. This directly flows from the promises made for us and affirmed by us in our baptisms.

clay jars
“We have this treasure in clay jars…” Not to be hoarded, but to be opened and shared. 

This is also true, as we read from Paul’s letter this week, “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NRSV). All that we have, and all that we are, is God’s. It all comes from God, and God entrusts us with it to love and serve God and our neighbor, and to live life abundantly sharing God’s love in all that we do.

Paul acknowledges that, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12, NRSV).

God is at work in us. In the life that is a part of us, God’s love is made known. The stranger is welcomed. The neighbor is cared for. The migrant or immigrant is shown food and water, not separation, prison, chastisement, ridicule and othering. This is stewardship. It’s also justice. And fellow preachers and stewardship leaders, we can’t stay silent on this. For if we do, we might as well all quit and go home. We are called to this, to be bearers of God’s love and mercy, but also to be prophetic and speak out for those whose voices and stories might otherwise go unheard. We must make room for their voices and stories to be told and heard.

So let us go about this work as God calls us, and guides us. Let us “open our mouth wide and let God fill it,” as the Psalmist implies this week (Psalm 81:10, NRSV). And let us be stewards in whatever way that might look like, of God’s love for all. No ifs, and or buts. Not exceptions, no exclusions. God’s love for all of God’s children.

Sunday June 3, 2018: Narrative Lectionary- The Second Sunday after Pentecost
Narrative Theme for the Day: The Ten Commandments (Week 2)
Focus Passages: Exodus 20:3-11
Gospel Verse: Matthew 22:34-40

This week we continue our four week series of digging into the Ten Commandments. For some thoughts on the gospel verse that accompanies this series, please see last week’s post.

In looking at this week’s focus on the commandments, I am pondering about our stewardship of time- of the things that really matter, and those that don’t. I am pondering about how we steward our lives and rest. Do we take time to just be? Do we take time to worship God? To play? To rest? Alternatively, do we elevate things, engagements, symbols, in our daily life to a level of being a god? If I had to confess, perhaps I make baseball into this sometimes.

We read again these famous words this week, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them…” (Exodus 20:4-5, NRSV).

How are we stewards with this insight? In what ways might we fall short, and it might help to honestly confess and name those things that we elevate to idol or god status? And how might we steward our God given lives and relationships in corrective response to it? And in gratitude for all that God has done and continues to do for us?

And, in thinking about the next commandment, “But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work…” (Exodus 20:10, NRSV). How do we steward our sabbath? How do we rest? How do we steward our time?

Any of these questions might make for meaningful and fruitful stewardship preaching in your context this week. In whatever way of direction you might be led, may God’s love and promise be made known to you and through you this week.

Image Credit: Clay Jars

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